In Toyota’s Guiding Principles, last revised in 1997, Michael Ballé sees more than “goal-oriented efficiency.” While I would not use a phrase like “goal-oriented efficiency,” the principles do not strike me as anything beyond strategic guidelines to ensure the long-term, worldwide viability of the company. If they serve this purpose, great, but a car manufacturer is the wrong place to look for philosophical enlightenment.
“Nearly two years ago my family and I moved to Tokyo. As a lean coach and enthusiast, you can imagine my excitement. I set out with the intention to deeply learn about Japanese business culture, leadership, and application of kaizen (Japanese for “continuous improvement”). I saw my time in Japan as a unique opportunity to immerse myself in the environment where the principles we call “lean” were born.
Now, after 18 months spent in Japan (we have just moved back to California), I find myself reflecting on what I learned and how the experience living there has shaped my own thinking about and understanding of lean. I want to share some of these thoughts with you.
The main theme that has emerged from my reflection is that Japanese culture does not equal Toyota culture. What we call “lean” is not inherently easy for the Japanese and there are cultural traits that both enable and inhibit the adoption of principles of the Toyota Production System (TPS)…”
Sourced through Planet Lean
Michel Baudin‘s comments: Katie Anderson is back from Japan, after 18 months, where she realized that the Toyota Production System (TPS) is the brainchild of smart people who happened to be Japanese and not the product of Japanese culture. Based on my own immersion in Japanese culture, and years of work with Japanese mentors and partners, I concur.
Two years ago, I advocated dropping the “Sensei” nonsense but it soldiers on. Blog readers keep asking questions about it. Consultants who do not speak Japanese keep answering that there is a fundamental difference between a sensei and a consultant, and seeing a deep meaning in the word “Sensei” that just isn’t there. There is indeed a difference, but it is basic: “Sensei” is a polite term for schoolteachers and other instructors, while a consultant is someone who gets paid for an engagement, as opposed to an employee. One word refers to a role; the other one, to a business relationship.
“Fifteen years ago, Art Byrne suggested to me that the title of our book about The Wiremold Company’s Lean transformation should be Lean Strategy. I resisted that suggestion because I did not view Lean as a strategy, despite Art’s firm view that Lean is a strategy. Who was right, me or Art?”
Sourced through Lean Leadership
Michel Baudin‘s comments:
Strategy originally is a military term, for the plans on where you deploy armies and fleets and for what purposes. It is supplemented by tactics, the methods used in the field to engage the enemy. It is easy to think of it as cascading down, where what is tactics to the general is strategy to the colonel, and so on down to the grunt, who only has tactics. To the CEO, Lean is not a strategy but a tactic; to the VP of Manufacturing, on the other hand, it is a strategy.
For details in this blog, see last year’s About Strategy, Tactics, and Lean.
“Every family has a few members who are eccentric and problematic – like the proverbial crazy uncle locked in the attic. While this makes for fun conversations at family events – provided these folks don’t attend! – crazy relatives can become a real problem if their antics reflect on the whole family. In the lean movement my two candidates for crazy relatives are Frederick Taylor and Henry Ford, who continue to cause us trouble 101 and 69 years after passing from this life.[…]”
Sourced from: Planet Lean
Michel Baudin‘s comments: First, thanks to Bob Emiliani, for bringing this article to my attention through his own critique of it. I disagree with the article too, but for different reasons. Womack wants to put a distance between his Lean and the legacy of Taylor and Ford, by branding them “crazy relatives.”
I see them as precursors, alongside many others, not crazy relatives. When implementing concepts from Toyota outside Japan, it is better salesmanship to embrace local precursors and stand on their shoulders than to dismiss them. Lean/TPS goes down easier when presented as a new chapter in an existing, familiar story than as an alien approach, and I believe this is why Toyota’s PR literature emphasizes the link to Ford.
It is a recurring expression in forums, conferences, and papers about Lean Leadership, but unclear because of the ambiguity about both leaders and standard work.
I have recently been involved in discussions of methods to teach adult learners and the ways if differs from teaching children or young adults. My personal experience is exclusively with adult professionals in a continuing education mode, and I provided examples from my recently most successful course, on New Plant Design, developed in 2005 at the request of the Hong Kong Productivity Council, and given more than 15 times in China since, and twice in Russia, although never in the US or Western Europe.
It is a seemingly simple question, but one that is not asked as often as it should be. It challenges managers to consider the responses of other stakeholders and think beyond immediate consequences. It checks their “bias for action,” and makes them take a pause to think farther than one move ahead.
If you outsource an item, for example, will the new supplier eventually morph into a competitor? What know-how might you lose? How will it affect employee morale? Are you putting your quality reputation at risk? The question is an invitation to work through multiple scenarios of responses by your suppliers, your work force, and your customers, reaching into the future.
Michel Baudin‘s comments:
I agree with your assessment, but I am not so sure about the remedy. About Womack and Jones, I would say that they authored one good book: “The Machine That Changed The World,” and leave it at that. To them, manufacturing was a spectator sport, and they shared the results of a worldwide benchmarking study of the auto industry.